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Lt. Gov. Stack promotes "Pathways to Pardons" program

It's often tough to get a job with a criminal record, but Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor is trying to make that process a little easier through his program Pathways to Pardons. (WJAC)

RICHLAND TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WJAC) -- It's often tough to get a job with a criminal record, but Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor is trying to make that process a little easier through his program Pathways to Pardons.

He made a stop in Richland Township at Penn Highlands Community College to educate people about the program.

State Rep. Bryan Barbin and Magellan Healthcare co-hosted the event.

He says people who have improved their lives after minor criminal convictions deserve a second chance at giving back and getting jobs.

Stephanie Gease has two degrees in computer programming and software. She's also a grandmother. But the one thing holding her back is a criminal past.

"It's very hard to get a job in there because of my past and I feel that I never had a chance to experience that because of my past record," Gease said.

"How many of us have been given second chances in life, and how important has that been to us in our journeys?” said Tracy Shultz, CEO/Director of Operations for Magellan Healthcare.

Second chances are the cornerstone of Pathways to Pardons, a program Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack started as the chair of the Board of Pardons.

"It's just about the power of hope,” Stack said. “Hope that you can get a second chance, that you can get your criminal record completely cleared up and be able to be a volunteer, get back into society, be a participant."

He says in the midst of an opioid crisis, a criminal record is tough on recovering addicts.

"It's one of the biggest obstacles to long term recovery, is if you have a criminal record, you're not going to be able to get a good job,” Stack said. “You're not going to be able to hold onto it and you end up going back. Where there's no hope there's dope, so you take a few steps backwards."

Stack has visited to the White House to talk about Pathways to Pardons and the program has been hailed as a national model for its effect in dealing with the opioid crisis.

"If you can get a pardon, you can get a good job and you can have long-term recovery, and so we're proud of what we're doing,” Stack said. “Pennsylvania's being a leader for the rest of the country, and we should be."

If granted a pardon, many freedoms are restored including serving on a jury, holding public office and serving in the military.

Ryan Yoder works with a lot of veterans through the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. He's from Johnstown and says this program is crucial for a lot of people.

"To inform individuals, including veterans, that once they get out of prison, or even if you're just getting out of the military, if you're having struggles, which so many veterans do, that there is help out there," Yoder said.

To his detractors, Stack says he's not being soft on crime, but being strong on justice.

To find out how to apply for a pardon, click here.

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